A Framework for the Cognitive Task Analysis in Systems Design

Jens Rasmussen

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapterResearchpeer-review


The present rapid development of advanced information technology and its use for support of operators of complex technical systems are changing the content of task analysis towards the analysis of mental activities in decision making. Automation removes the humans from routine tasks, and operators are left with disturbance control and critical diagnostic tasks, for which computers are suitable for support, ifit is possible to match the computer strategies and interface formats dynamically to the requirements of the current task by means of an analysis of the cognitive task.Such a cognitive task analysis will not aim at a description of the information processes suited for particular control situations. It will rather aim at an analysis in order to identify the requirements to be considered along various dimensions of the decision tasks, in order to give the user - i.e. a decision maker - the freedom to adapt his performance to system requirements in a way which matches his process resources and subjective preferences. To serve this purpose, a number of analyses at various levels are needed to relate the control requirements of the system to the information processes required and to the processing resources offered by computers and humans. The paper discusses the cognitive task analysis in terms of the following domains: The problem domain, which is a representation of the functional properties of the system giving a consistent framework for identification of the control requirements of the system; the decision sequences required for typical situations; the mental strategies and heuristics which are effective and acceptable for the different decision functions; and the cognitive control mechanisms used, depending upon the level of skill which can/will be applied. Finally, the end-users' criteria for choice of mental strategies in the actual situation are considered, and the need for development of criteria for judging the ultimate user acceptance of computer support is discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationIntelligent Decision Support in Process Environments
Number of pages16
PublisherSpringer-Verlag, Berlin Heidelberg
Publication date1985
Publication statusPublished - 1985
Externally publishedYes
EventNATO Advanced Study Institute on Intelligent Decision Aids in Process Environments - Pisa, Italy
Duration: 16 Sept 198527 Sept 1985


ConferenceNATO Advanced Study Institute on Intelligent Decision Aids in Process Environments


  • Decision making
  • Functional Analysis
  • Human factors
  • Industrial Plants
  • Man-machine systems
  • Monitoring
  • Planning
  • Risk analysis
  • Specifications


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